Inner-View; Interview with Sammy Davis Jr.
Yes. I think. We have. Come to the right thing. With you. In your view with your trial suit with. The trial because music from the point of view of one of the greats Sammy Davis. Playing Matt is doing great. We're not going to ask you to ask you to talk about things like the candy man and
that's how many years ago would you do that. I was 70s early 70s. That's why I hated that song. And Mike Curb our lieutenant governor you know he said I want you to do it it was the third third song session. He said I got to do. He said would you do this one for me and I said well let me hear it because I had a good I still have a good relationship with Mike and he played it and he said I said with kids I don't believe that with little kids and you want me to do. He said I got a feeling about this. I said well I saw the picture of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You know I didn't. And he said but your friend wrote it you know and I said well let me hear it again so I heard it again and I went Oh it's horrible horrible.
He said do one take from me. I said OK so we did one take and he said Can somebody get the kids and I went kids you mean to tell me you got the kid and he had a stare and they all gave him good he wanted more. So if I signed up to say and I only mention it only because if you're going to be married that makes reference to saying we're we like what we like to perform but we have no idea you know what's going to make it with the public and then the record came out. And then for about six months like that and the middle of the Road station stopped playing it and after it was out for like almost a year and it went to the top and stayed there for like 17 weeks was the biggest single. And to this day I scratch my head every day.
You can figure it out when anybody says oh boy 53 years I bet he knows it all. Nobody. I once heard mane of slaughter sitting over here say that once you try to analyze jokes that ain't funny no more. Right here and now but we're going to try something different in the main and I'm going to get you that. What what is the style what is the Sammy Davis style of just and what is it. Is it distinctive. What is it. Yeah I think it's distinctive. What makes it is that Sammy just one great musician. And the style comes from unbelievable time and good chops and it just all gets together and it sounds wonderful from a background of good chops and good time. How you sang it are you saying that you bear a lot of singers who aren't good musicians. Oh yeah I'd say there are a lot of singers who are good musicians there are very few who really are good musicians and soon you're certainly right up there at the top of those who have that
background in that field for and he again has the voice to go with it and it's just fun listening to him. I saw the show opening night and he when basi together just put me away of it and he's been doing that to me for years. Both of them as a matter of how long you've been in the business. Fifty three years and you started though just as I did as a kid three years old. But I've always wanted to be. Around jazz musicians. That was my background. The people that I've tried to emulate when I was 5 was over 17 years and they never left I never got a thing out of my mouth you know. But when I would get a chance and hang out with with be with Billy Eckstein you know with only jazz musicians go down to all the places and because I had been in show business at the age of 16 or 17 years old I could go and I could get into all the joints where the sessions were and what was happening so I was exposed to it and the people that I really listened to that I copied. Well I was
Eckstein Sinatra because I like the way he enunciated words next time because of what he did with it. And one of my the best influence on me really beside the ladies you know Sarah Mildred Bailey you know Billie Holiday on the male side was a guy by the name of Mel Torme because Ritter same age. And Mel and I you know there was some marvelous moments when he was with music craft I was living on Detroit street off Wilshire Boulevard. And I was in the offing in theater in downtown L.A. and he was about to do an album with the show called the Cole Porter album a place called porter and he called me up and he said Sam listen to this. And he had the mellow tones. Journeyman Seanie got a bunch of guys Les Baxter so we had this group. And this is what he played for
me which became a classic and it's time when he played I was the first one to hear it outside of the group. Rock is in love dude. And I went wow that's. But they will never let you do that. You know we were born here you know but it was really like Judy Garland Mickey Rooney. Hey I got a bar and you get the clothes. And that is the background for me. You know I was at Shep's playhouse when when Parker. Went to camera and they had to take him. I was there that night. You know I really literally was there and I used to go up and listen to the you go up and I wouldn't be a hundred people who wouldn't be Janet be like some musicians maybe 30 people upstairs on the second floor and the band would be blown in after the club closed and keep on playing. I was privy to that. So I that maybe rubbed off by
osmosis you know but that's where I got it. What did you learn in terms of technique from Ella. I don't know if I learned technique so much is the way she. She just handles so delicately everything she does is very delicate and she never presses to go for anything it just happens effortlessly. It just seems to happen man. And that's the thing that I am finally getting to now because I used to everything like I could feel brains coming you know popping out of my head. In the old days and now I don't feel I do that as much. And you still make it you know but you don't. Well it was just God. She sings with dignity because it comes from inside of her and her taste is impeccable. She never makes choices. Every performance every actor every singer every musician has a choice that they must make. It's instantaneous particularly in jazz or anything like
that because a cat has to make those. And it's got to come quicker. It's electronic on the litter tip. Hers is impeccable. Always on the nose. Never seen anything like it. And it's not studied it just comes it flows at least it seems to flow. And it has flown like that from a music training for you. Well any formal music training. No I don't know why you didn't have no desire or no time or want. Very interesting question. No time in the beginning you go. Now I couldn't go into place. Oh my you go and let me go and and go and study anything now because I noted the GED tells me I'm wrong I know he'd be right and I couldn't deal with it and you know that as hard as I did to be even when I did I did read the good I could do with that. I mean I write I make 4 million dollars a year and I got to be right
this lovely to have something to say about your style as a musician. Would you identify yourself. Oh yeah. You. Know I saw it from a lot of the other things one of what appeals. What is the appeal that you see as you sort of are close enough to him to see the reactions of other people what seems to be the thing that that his greatest appeal for people is there one single element of his performance in his singing I can't think of one single element I know when I see him and sometimes I don't see him for a while and it's sporadic. Each time I become an audience sometimes I forget that we belong to each other because he does something different in each show and I see a different phase of him that I may have not seen before. That's very sweet. Thank you very consciously do something different or does it just not you just let it flow.
I try to let it flow but I also there's a consciousness behind a child's because. You've got musicians on the road and because they have basically good jazz musicians. They get tired of playing the same you know how many times can you play Candyman how many times can you play Bojangles. And those are the standouts and along with 17 others that I have to do. So I try to make it fun for them. Change it around do this thing and subsequently make it fun for myself and I feel if you if you are legitimate in it then you can take and still please the audience because they'll get the genuineness of the fun that you're having because you know it's like when musicians in the band applaud you get forest and gets up there and ladies and them gentlemen applaud you and say yeah man I was cooking. And the audience sees that and that brings another kind of reaction to it. It goes back to the old days. Speaking as minute about. About comedy you know you become so analytical about it that you analyze all the humor out of it. And he's absolutely right. And I
remember working in the old Steve Allen Show back in New York for NBC and he would never have if you remember he would never do the punch line for the crew. They do a sketch and that was when the man on the street had all those marvelous people Don Knotts and you know was there all of the guys and he would. This is how they do the sketch and I have had have had had that problem and so because he wanted that instant laugh he wanted the real laughter from the crew coming because the audience here is the crew the crew generates and you see the cameras sometimes you're not serious. But that was legitimate that was no phony man between real laughter Encana laughter and I think the same thing applies to it down front Variety performance in the old days the thing that I regret about now. That's the guys that are in back here on the sides. There's no place for us to
do to woodshed anymore like we used to. There used to be ninety two places where you could go and hang out with musicians and you could exchange ideas you know or you just sit and listen to good music and that would stimulate you for the next night. You know but if you say to any place now I'm occasionally I do it on stage because thank the Good Lord I'm in the position to do it I just say we're going to play some like just do that. Do that do that and we get a little groove go on and do it and the audience will accept that for me and thank God they do because they know I'm going to come back and do something commercial. I don't know. But at least I get away with it. Is this how the medley emerged of just the percussion. The metal based upon an old thing that I did with Michael Silver and it was on an album 20 some odd years ago. Called Sammy Davis Jr. at the Coconut Grove and I did West Side Story. We did a whole bunch of things and they drummer who originated it was a man by the name of Michael Silva.
And we did then he just played the drums that started out of an ad lib thing yes. But the thing that I'm doing now with Ricky though it's a derivative of that is completely different because I try to tie it in and do this with it and present it and it's fun to do because I again I mean control of it and I can change it and you know different numbers. You're a musician if would you tell us Are you in a good mood. I love my work right now. You've played behind a lot of singers and such. Sammy's making it sound pretty easy. It isn't always that easy. Well if you to me is really that should be should be should be you should be you would be do you get the excitement for instance if you're playing in an orchestra and singing on Tuesday night he's going to do something different I do you would you look forward to that. Yeah. We all have a general repertoire
and the flexibility to know what he's saying to you is that the flexibility of a babe is that he's imposing on Tuesday night that I will do something different. But the but the joy should be that he's got springs of money and they come Wednesday now but I'm saying so that you have that report with each other and say you want to do that and sometimes it takes no more than just a look. Oh good let's go for it and there's no words exchanged. And it's an invisible thing but it's a feeling that's what he meant when he said Hey man if you got it you know you should be ready for it should be that's what it should be. Student musician. That Car Talk going to university. What do you play trumpet where at the university and Frank of the university jazz ensemble if you have you ever had an opportunity that was like I mean you know what would it be like do you think. Well and we're not going to ask you to do it. I don't like to play behind sand you know how could this be
frightening Could this be exhilarating for this we would. Well I think it is. As a musician behind a performer it's it's just a thrill to just just see the excitement of someone up front and just the whole energy of everything that goes on around you. Would you husband would you hope he would do something different all the time just for your own stimulation. Well I think just the idea of that element of surprise you know a spontaneous level is always exciting to see and. Probably make. A point. I think that some of the young musicians that this man particularly in terms of university what they would get a kick out of because I've done shows like at military installations where like at the Air Force band and all of that kind of thing and what they get a kick out of. And colleges where they get a kick out of doing is playing the chart and some of the charts that they've heard.
Hey that's a good man and they get oh that's a good you know that's what they would get a kick out of now the other ad lib squad part or just sitting down. That would happen in this kind of an atmosphere and that would be. But cats could take solos and this that and the other but first it starts with the child then it starts with all of the energies that come from that stimulate each other. We stimulate each other. You know you talk about shots. What point do you. Someone comes to you with a song. Got a great idea for a song. What is the process from taking that to performance and idea to get all it all depends on what it is generally want. What happened when I was no generalization Charles I'm not trying to be facetious it's just. It fits most of the things for me now. The record thing that's another that's another sort of situation but if it's down front before then I'll think of an idea of my wife and I will go see a show like Dreamgirls for instance and as a couple of songs in that show that I want to do then I take it to my guys who DO MY down front arrangements which is usually
and has been for years Joyce Rhodes and our home something into a tape recorder basically of how I see it being done and then he translates it to music I don't know. I can't even spell music. You know I'm serious man I know nothing about it I hear it but I don't know. Brother No it isn't nothing I'm not proud about that's a bit. But. So if it's a record song or someone brings me a song it's a record or the company brings me a record. Then the guys who handle most of the record things like a cost or any one of the newer Rangers or any one of the guys around built they'll do it and we get the keys and what do you think of that. And that's the way it's handled but since I basically work like 30 weeks a year in clubs and things and you're looking for new ideas concepts and this that and the other. George and I worked it out together and then he will change things like I got into the country and western thing and then I wanted certain things to happen country-Western wise because I get a feel for Country
Western but I like Charlie Daniels country and western as opposed to you know I love what he does with the trumpets and all of that to be very much like Chicago and you know country western style. So the plants from Nation of those things that makes it interesting. When we come back we're going to talk about how you broke out of the group you know and then when you first started as a single. We'll be right back with Sammy Davis.
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Sammy Davis Jr. turns to a good radio and a song like that you can't stop moving what what. Instinctively I'd like to play but you can't stop right. What do they do that that makes you just move. What is healing the rhythm. The fact that he took a song that is standard did it in a bossa nova Latin beat type of thing makes it exciting. Janke you could go into again just to make it and what he was doing with it touching it caressing it you know musically that makes it interesting and you just want to do counterpoint to it you know that he said and you hear in a good sound you know is there are technical name for what you just what you just did in terms of sound. The only technical name I would call on it would be. He's doing improvisational. He's doing an improvisation on the theme and I was doing an improvisation on these improvisation on the thing so I don't know where that was.
So much for the theory I that goes out the window. But I got I wish I could say it technically I know the guy is kind. When did you just decide to go out on your own. I never wanted to go out on my own I liked working with my dad and uncle. I really did. That's not a lie but we have taken it as far as we could go with the trio and my dad and will. My dad didn't want to work anymore anyway and he was getting older and will love to hang in. He wanted to work. That was his life you know and it didn't matter to me except the burning ambition that I had that I had to go I had to go and I had to get there and I wanted to be a star. But more than anything else in the world money wiser than most of the make of the money got split up that same way anyway. So if I was alone with them they were still there with me. And I just felt that theatrically
I was being dumb is too good I could only was only so much you could do with two men standing on the side of you and then not doing anything and I started to make them look bad and that was the last thing I wanted to do. So that's why I said let me represent the trio. Let me so became for five years after I went out on my own it was that Will Mastin Trio presents Sammy Davis Jr.. But I wanted to say I wanted to be the individual performer. You know the more my dad did this and said I don't want to do the dance tonight and unfortunately because of age I couldn't do it and they weren't working like they had worked 20 years prior and I was just at the you know I thought the world was. What do you mean there's another mountain I believe or whatever where is the next one you know that's that was my attitude so I was hungry. I was terribly ambitious you know. You remember the younger Sammy when he went on Fox I think you know yes yes I do very well.
Sammy was our most profitable performer that we have I had at the Last Frontier Hotel right up there with him not quite. Was Liberace at that time but Sammy he had the appeal that just couldn't be denied. People wanted to see Sammy they felt this fellow is the greatest talent of ever seen. And he used to pack the room Bracci did too and I think there were about even at that time but Sammy as an individual kept going up and up the stock climbing mountains huge mountains a little higher but he climbed it and everyone loved him. And if there ever was a God given consummate talent in a performer he gave it to Sammy Davis. No. Wonder. You're surely not built like a potter Roddy. But you have a voice at it which is filled with
filled with residents did not have it take you by surprise when you tried it for the first time and tried to hear your voice. Yeah because I don't have had no formal vocal training and I don't know where it comes from and I've got friends of mine who are in opera legitimate theater and all of that. Would say I don't don't investigate it because you're messing up you know just how to do everything diametrically wrong as to what you're supposed to do I never warm up before a show. I smoke too much. I do all of the wrong things but obviously it works for me I don't know I'm taking more care and doubt. But my first record session which is. Still traumatic for me at Capital $25 a sideman $25 aside. And Dave Dexter was the producer and I went into saying and my dad was sitting in the boot. I sang the first chorus of the song and my dad got up and walked out. That she he can't see not I.
And I remember about it to this day. You know but you remember the song Oh yeah I remember. Well when I look at you it threw me through and through but I don't care who knows. Buddy Johnson Johnson the sister did it. I did it and it wasn't a big song and it wasn't until I got to a decade that I got a chance to sing and this is my beloved. I was in the 50s but I was talk about the 40s but I always love singing big I don't know why maybe it's because I'm dim.. Maybe that's the reason why but I sing big and go for the high note you know. Eddie was talking about a period at the front to your front it was always and all the people associated with the front it was so good to me because we were one of the first acts in this town to make $25000 a week. And I was after my accident because I was working at the front and when I lost my. I was going back to do a soundtrack for a movie. And I left said goodnight to Ed after the show about got in the car
going back and when I came back. After I recuperate and everything else I came back. That's when we first got twenty five thousand dollars and I thought I was all the money in the world and I was as good as it was ever going to get for me as a performer. But in those days you know as any says I used to do just to play the drums the trumpet all the things and then go on and people you know I don't know if I was good. But here's how the audience would be at the end of the day. He's got to get off some time. I've got to go to the bathroom get him off you know but I do an hour an hour 15 minutes and think nothing of it. Better hang out afterwards with the musicians you know at someplace where it immediately after the accident was ever a time when you thought oh never do it again. Why not if not immediately after but two years afterwards because I have there was
such support of this in this town and from the performance. And in Hollywood where I lived for today of show business and all the musicians rallied and they really literally supported me and just said no man we need to let you get down no matter about it come here you know it was over and it wasn't until after about two years and I took the patch off of everything else and one night I'm sitting. Sitting at the Sands Hotel as a matter of fact sitting like this here. God's honest truth. And I just and I started to shake. And they had to take I could do the show could work. I was just like a quivering masses you know. And later found out that it was because of all the traumatic thing about the I was never allowed the privilege to feel sorry for myself. Thanks to my friends I was never allowed the privilege to say oh man I
think I never I never got to work. You know I wasn't pretty before the accident so it don't matter to me. You know but I mean I was never allowed that because my friends rallied around. And when one night it hit me two years later I just fell apart. And then I took me a while and do this again and again the support was I don't think I've ever told us that Lamont would. What about the amount that had us and I think I love jazz columnist So what about the support idea of musician to musician have you seen it working as you've wandered around historically and well I think so I think there's a great report between the entertainer and a musician and I I think they feel so much a part of the machine themselves. And I think most musicians will agree to that is it right to CNN Would you agree to that. And if you are musician you were taught to play and you taught to play well when you want to do your best and I think that's a live performer. Now recently of course Sammy was doing with working with Count Basie which is not the first
time but doing concerts for him. This is the second time I believe he came in for a week in October right. Yeah I was going to ask you Was this your idea of getting together with Count Basie I thought it might be and this time it's better because what I really wanted to do the last time we couldn't and I was add all the strings that I wanted and we got 25 springs up you know and it's and just to see musicians working pros working and I'm not waving no flags or anything but just to see it. And they're pros and they know what they're doing and the report that happens between the string section in the bass the band and the back and forth and back stage it's a love affair. There's no egos there's no goodness that any of them but I'm not doing this and I'm not doing that. You've got no time for that. We're just all there to do the job and we're all musicians and we all hang out. And it's beautiful. Well as you know you will be 78 years old on October 21st. Do you think that if he should retire Sammy the band
would continue without him and if so whom do you think would front the band. It was a some very strange very thing I was a couple should be no more. So that's I don't mean that in a detrimental way I want to. The Bam to me is magnificent We know that individually and collectively but without comment sitting there smiling his countenance and that little plink spank. And. I would hate to see anyone do that. It's like taking the Mona Lisa and putting it in a plastic frame. You know you just don't do that. It's the magic of camp they say he was a match he will play no note before it's time for him in terms of creativity what you learn from him in a performance and what does he learn from you. I doubt if there's anything he learns from me but I learn from him because he's a master of understatement. And I've always been the master of overstatement and that and the
clothes the flamboyant hair the ego and all of that. And I have learnt well H took care of some of it you know but working with him you come down and it's still it's still bizarre as the rings are still on and you do that jazz because that's theatrical. But just in terms of I remember in the old days Case in point I would have opened up seven years ago with the basic band doing just once in a lifetime Mandos. Just ease into it because you're working with basing your gut that supports you don't have to rush and they can't see the base advantage Sammy Davis Jr. or vice versa but whoever's camp there in that audience they're going to like they have a cat that's there and having a bivouac so it becomes a party and subsequently you don't have to prove it. First number out. So basically I learned that because it wasn't even that way in the when we were here in October. And that's this recent match when I was here in
October I opened up with this will be my shining hour which is from my first album. But I said I don't have to do that with basing man he's he's cooked for 40 minutes. Now this let me walk out and get into his groove. And that's what happens and thank the good Lord it works really well you know he has always followed that philosophy I think because he has so many cryptic notes that he will play in the beginning and the rejection and the brass section pick up one note and you see them go through and pick out the chart and there they're off and running and without a computer. Yeah. I'm going to write out a computer to watch you watch them go over those charts and the musicians walking down from a little sand and just John. It's an art it's an art form that's something that should be mentioned for a captive. Get out walked out of that thing.
Play is playing again. And while saying that the timing is impeccable. Never miss a note beat or anything else. Whap you know and you and that's something that you don't see today. You know good everybody's up front the groups are up front and they're playing in the cats take their solos and I wonder what I'm saying you just don't see that walk out walk down walk out walk back and play you know just what you describe we do tend to take for granted. Yes. Any other orchestra leaders look to have meant a great tool to you. Oh man I had the privilege of working with all of them I must say Duke I worked with several times in the old days when they had the theater presentation things you know because I did a lot of theater back in those days when they have the big bands I worked with Woody many times Woody Herman's then worked with and work with the Gillespie band the big band the man take a band you know that was
wild. That was one of the Howard Washington with Dizzy Gillespie in town oh boy and all it gets and you never knew. Sometimes dizzy would be on the stage playing by himself. You're not going to be saying is the show started yet. Not enough. But it was Ed was it was marvelous. It was a kind of. That's another thing about basic base he has to me the bands I worked with. He has the most organized band in the world. Offstage he never had gas coming to his lips and you know there's a couple of cats that's used to not on the stage scene that sing and I will mention no names. That's me not bad because you did it did did did did did did did kept not.
It seemed to be to do. Swear to god that god go right back to nod and pick up on it was like somebody had a little like tronics thing on a mat up on a plate of a nation. But as soon as the number was over they said that I did not wake up. You know. What's happening you know. So I kept but bases man's always been the kind of band that hits there. You never have to worry about it there in that place a half hour before time because that and also goes with the territory that the professionalism of the individuals and their own and their dignity the respect that they have for the man they see the respect that they have for themselves as musicians because they are all excellent musicians. You know when we come back Sammy I'm going to ask you mung other things about Bojangles and if you from your wife if you do sing in the shower after all. I'll be right back.
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And we're back with Sammy Davis Jr. the great Sammy Davis Jr. everybody's agreed here. That's. Only. I guess. But 50 years or so people have been saying that you as and he said before you you just went up and constantly moving to greater heights. Well a lot of help but I think that someone once told you that one of the surprise or one of the tremendous hits in your life Bojangles was a song that perhaps you might never be able to do or shouldn't be able to do. Well I did and I did. I think we talked about the other night. I always feared that I'd die that way. You know I'd be like Bowden and I'd be wandering the streets because I'd seen so many of my. People who would now be my contemporaries get wiped out that way you know wiped out by drugs and alcohol by their own had to be able to function within the society. And when the song came up. And they suggested this is why
I don't know how I'm going now. But Tom Jones wanted me to do it. I said I can't sing that song. I wouldn't sing it and I said but I like the concept of it. Let me dramatize it for you. I said Can you sing it. And that's how we got that's how I first in of it I did the physical thing of starting him off as an old man and then seeing him as a young man with the with the with the minstrel shows and all of that. And Tom sang it and he came back and then went out of these. 68 I guess you missed in 68 69 but now to me he's joining act before long before we got married. How did he join the act and was my super at Mr. ceremonies and we had all the girls working with the show at the time. I used to do it with Neil Diamond's record and I would never I would never sing it. It wasn't until we had went into the grove I think maybe the second or third time. Then I said I'm going to take a chance of saying it and I used to get so hung up on the song because
of my own personal hangups that I would just get I told a story one night right here at Caesars one of the first times we were at Caesar's I'm singing a song and I start to cry and I couldn't uncontrollably. I said that's my life and that's all my life I've been in show business. And one thing I'm Risen is the dog you know and that's the way I want to wind up. And as the room got together things got better for me and my head started the straight and a little bit better and some of my fears went out the window and I started to live with my and the things that are frustrating and want to live and learn to accept life and accept the people who will love you or who only want to give you love as one thing came up the other fish came down and so subsequently I was able to approach the song. And so many funny things about Bojangles is not about Bill Robinson as you know it was just a song about a type of black minstrel for the want of a
better word written by Jeff. Jerry Jeff Walker. Yeah yeah. And how that you are basically a country and western singer. But he wrote a definitive piece and. When you do it the audience identifies a song with me now and I couldn't be more thrilled yet still when I made the record I didn't sell a book because nobody wants to nobody wants to hear it. They want to see it and that's that is something that's a compliment. They want to see the performance because it is the overall. And then comes the actress problem. How do you make it fresh all the time. How do you make it fresh for yourself all the time so that it doesn't become stale to the audience. Or. Anything else. Mr. DAVIS There's no case in a long time ago and I was a little girl. You don't have to say he was. Well actually I was about 16 and you did a
political fundraiser in San Francisco at Winterland and Barbara McNair singing with you and mama Thorton there and it was it was just a real big night for me because I got to come and see Sammy Davis perform and you danced and you sing and you play the drums and you were from one end of the stage to the other and it just it was like like a hero for me because I see I'd seen you in movies and I knew you could do all those things but you were doing them so live and so real. And and I just some of the root of the impressions that you did that night were real people. And and to see you know where some of them are generally the worst and I don't you don't think. Hey I did they did the two women together
and and I just. How does a performer. Know that they've got all these things in them. The musician the dancer the singer the artist the actor. How does someone get a chance to do them all. Are you made specifically in it with any impression well-known. Not necessarily in an impression but as a performer you have you have the bassist who knows that's what he wants to do. You have that the pianist who knows that's what he wants to do. Then you have the artist the performer who can do the impressions the musicians and how do how do you know that that you can do it and then get up and do it where do you find the energy to make every part of it so real. That's a. Are you talking about inspiration I think Dr. Rice and I think I know where she's coming from. It's it's really three three kinds of answers on a census. First of all in terms of
individuals. Let me related to medicine specialists. He's a specialist he's a specialist he's a specialist in terms of musician ship for me. You say General Practitioner. I wanted to be able to touch on everything. And the same thing applies to the variety concept because when I was raised in show business you didn't just when I came up and paid my dues and I'm still everybody still pays dues you know you don't stop paying dues. But you had to learn to do more than just one thing. You. Proudly being a dancer wasn't enough you had to know how to say lines and if you if you were a straight man or a second banana you had to be able to to do a little dance sing a song. But that was part and parcel of it today. You don't have to be if you are good enough to be just a singer. You know there's no I admire the young kids today who come up and want to get into legitimate theater and you know Pirates of
Penzance of the rock stars doing that. Stephanie Elam because I think that's marvelous because it shows stretching but we had to do it as a prerequisite. We had to learn because we didn't know what was going to happen or where the next gig would come from. You had no way and the first thing my dad said to me go back and watch that man in the wings learn how to tell a joke. You learn how to how that how to humor that line more because one day you will have to do something like that. And so subsequently I tell a joke on a stage now and I say Oh my goodness that's that's a joke that Chuck and chuckles used to do stump and stumping used to do that people don't even remember those names you know today but I watched those people you know it's when when you think of some of the things that the Jeffersons are doing now you know in terms of blackness for instance and how to make a thing sound black so that it relates. And without embarrassment to everyone in the audience I think of things like
at the chocolatiers doing things like putting the wig on and this guy putting his wig on what a mustache you know and play it is too broad as on stage and he was supposed to be dancer and they had a thing when he used to do a Charleston thing. And they had what they're doing now only in a fast and terrible color rap. But it wasn't called rap then it was just call. Talk and written you know and one of the last lines in and I'm going back 30 years. Well OK if you feel that way treat me did. You understand what I'm saying and that's only black. But in those days it was colored with this in the society changes. Same with this in mind. Any resentment ever when you first started doing impressions of the white guys. As a matter of fact it was just the opposite. When Dick and I first got it. Funnily enough the first time I got a chance to do it for predominantly white audiences was with a sea of strand
1047 Billie Holiday count basing chocolatiers and ISOs and nobody. The only thing they were shocked about was a black guy doing white voices. Because when I first did my first record for Decca. Nobody thought I was white anyway because of the NCAA all of that. The way I pronounce words. So then when the pitcher game out another said OK I'm not sure. But no there was never any reason but I've never had anybody come I don't do that I never did better impressions anyway. You know so satirical that people would object to the only person that always kind of he was not upset but he would say he doesn't sound like me at all with my Yolanda. Mario Lanza said he doesn't sound like me at all but I got to know each other and he was as a matter of fact one of the dates at the frontier he was supposed to come into the NBA.
And I remember saying to somebody if he does the plays I were bracing President Nixon comes to mind is. Did you have trouble. It came across as very genuine at the moment but a lot of people got you after that and just said you know what you did do a thing like that. How did you react to that. Broke my heart you know because it wasn't a set up and it was something that I did and if you would take time back and go back and those things things would lead up to what happened that evening. I do it again and I'm going to say no I wouldn't do it now in hindsight I would do the same thing again because it was done out of innocence and out of emotion. I walk up to you and I say you know the lady or I see somebody I hug people and that's it and the man said something marvelous and I passed them and they took a picture. But they were that's yesterday's newspaper but it brings up a logic question about a celebrity status in politics. What is it like most
of us you know we go down the street and nobody knows who we are. You can't walk anywhere without people recognizing you and and expecting things. You know what does that do to you doesn't do anything to me doesn't do anything for me at all like I worked all my life to be recognized to be a celebrity. And I love being a celebrity. I love all of nice things that happens. The days that I don't like being a celebrity I don't go out. An understanding that I stay with my wife and I House with the click in my hand like this click or look at television because you don't work all your life if it gets up to ignore it and say plays you know I like you like a guy next door I am not the boy next door. I am not and I didn't work to be the boy next door I work to be a performer. Hopefully the best performer I can be and hopefully learning all the time in a celebrity and that whole celebrity thing comes with it and I work for it and you on of the people who laid it on here I don't mean over solicitous but I mean if a person says May I have your autograph
unless I'm right in the middle of a thing or a bike or when I'm with my family for instance some time of my kids I'll say to somebody in a minute. Not today because I'm with my family and that's I don't get a chance and most people recognize that and leave me alone. But nobody bugs me anyway so why am I going to stand up here and talk about. Please. I want you to pay $50 to see me at the at Caesars. But don't talk to me if you see me getting in my car. I don't make no sense to me man. OK with that standard Let's talk about the reverse then what happens to people that you know who were once as big as you and all of a sudden they walk out on the street and nobody seems to recognize them anymore. What is that fear that's a fear that we all have and maybe they should have been nicer when they what they get. And they'll ease the pathway. Good thing nobody can say that if I have a baby. Nobody's going to state it for having the best you can hope is that the cat when you win when you
win someone else is moving up and you're moving down and the cat takes it a little slower with you because somewhere along the line you touch some people and that's been nice and hey he was a good guy instead agrees in the polls so you fall down. That's the only thing and you don't do it in a calculating way. You know my hanging out of my knowing the stagehands and the musicians and all the kids all over this country that I ain't got nothing to do with one day and I'm going to be a no more. That's because that's the way I was raised in this business the first thing you had to do my dad will tell me you make sure of the people to get you on that stage and work with you. You say good evening. You don't walk in with your nose up to me and just as an opening act. Good evening gentlemen good evening how are you. And you have some very probably these people but these are the people you live with do the best you can for the audience but you don't live with your audience you live with your stage and you are just friends. So subsequently respect them. I want to get into the creative process about those the four of you up there in a minute if I could put you on the spot but I I've got to ask does he sing in the shower.
No I do I. They make me doubt that even though you were involved I live there and yes he says he doesn't want me. So it's old saw you that one yeah I let him write everything with him. I love my bag. First of all she's a shower lady. He didn't serenade me for you and I. When you walk into our house you know that that's not the ego it's not so big that you just hear love about Sammy Davis Jr. records you know we play out the music is going all the time and she's listening to everybody she's got cassettes you know you listen and all the guys are under 25 you know anything that was not included in the sometimes classical music as well as other things. Well you pretty much the whole spectrum. I love classical music. This is unrehearsed and this is putting on the spot but I'm just curious from my listeners point of view they have a profound respect for your ability as a musician
if Kirk could just play something and maybe even take your guys by surprise and and Oh well I'd like to know is what triggers what what happens within your mind when you start hearing a melody and do you get moods just a mood come in I got a pencil where he wants to go with it. For instance it's a good seven okay. Is it seven. It's a bad thing for me.
I know I know about that but the thing of it is is that if the kind of fun that I talked about a half hour 45 minutes ago about getting up at a session or at a joint and the guys in the musicians come up man. Thanks Ira. Guys what you want to say everybody. You don't want to sing the things that you're doing in my club things that you would play something that you know the caddie it's a note and you get a chance to then do this you know. And when we are witnessing an impromptu creative moment where all of a sudden and if I can recapitulate what happened. You asked her to play something and then all of a sudden you felt it was time for the rhythm it was time for some kind of embellishment. Yeah. It's time for you then after and only after that to give some kind of vocal expression. Yeah. Fashion. It is it is fun. That's what makes it fun. Yeah. And of course that's also you but I have this kind of experience
you know and the people involved. And. Needless to say the world has been grateful for someone of your quality sound even. If you're very much. Welcome here.
- Interview with Sammy Davis Jr.
- Producing Organization
- Vegas PBS
- Contributing Organization
- Vegas PBS (Las Vegas, Nevada)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/22-15bcc4t8).
- Host, Charles Supin. Topic: Music. Sammy never liked "Candy Man" but did it for commercial reasons. Never had any formal instruction. Wife and other invited guests were in the audience.
- Asset type
- Talk Show
- Performing Arts
- No copyright statement in content
- Media type
- Moving Image
Copyright Holder: KLVX, Las Vegas, Nevada
Director: Ishmael, Leon
Executive Producer: Hill, John K.
Guest: Davis, Sammy, Jr.
Host: Supin, Charles
Producer: Winston, Lee
Producing Organization: Vegas PBS
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Vegas PBS (KLVX)
Identifier: 746 (lag)
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- Chicago: “Inner-View; Interview with Sammy Davis Jr.,” 1982-05-11, Vegas PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 30, 2020, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-22-15bcc4t8.
- MLA: “Inner-View; Interview with Sammy Davis Jr..” 1982-05-11. Vegas PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 30, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-22-15bcc4t8>.
- APA: Inner-View; Interview with Sammy Davis Jr.. Boston, MA: Vegas PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-22-15bcc4t8